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What: Crab apples are members of the rose family and are native to North America and Asia. The tart, mouth-puckering fruit are much smaller than regular apples and can be woody in texture. But because they're fragrant and full of flavour, they're often used to make jelly or preserves.

When: They're generally available in early fall.

How: "If you just grab a crab apple and eat it, it's a bit harsh," says chef Jonathan Gushue of Langdon Hall in Cambridge, Ont., noting they're best enjoyed when cooked. He offers some suggestions:

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Baked crab apples: Peel and core them, then roll them in butter and brown sugar. Bake them with a sprinkling of brandy, vanilla and black pepper. "Quite often, we'll serve that with some goat cheese," Mr. Gushue says. He suggests you can also serve the preparation with cookies or apple cake.

Mini crab apple pies: Peel and core the fruit and sauté with brown sugar and butter. Cut out a square of puff pastry. Put some of the sautéed crab apple in the centre, then fold the pastry. Crimp the edges with a fork and brush with egg. Dust with sugar and bake. "It would be lovely: a crab apple hand pie," he says.

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About the Author

Wency Leung is a general assignment reporter for the Life section. Before joining The Globe in early 2010, she has worked as a reporter in Vancouver, Prague, and Phnom Penh. More

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